Home July 3rd, 2012

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A garden that’s got it made in the shade

Lack of sun is no excuse not to have a beautiful yard

It’s the age of building up: multi-storey homes, condominiums and high-rise developments litter Toronto. This means more shade and less sun for garden-loving neighbours.

To help the gardener forced to plant on the less-than-sunny side of the street, Toronto Master Gardener member Veronica Callinan shares four key tips that won’t keep you in the dark.

1) Know your garden

Understand it, says Callinan. That doesn’t mean have a sit-down conversation with your plants, but be able to identify and use to your advantage its landscape, soil type and lighting conditions.

She says it’s important to get to know which type of lighting and shade each area has during different times of day.

Is it deep shade, dappled or full?

Based upon these observations you will be able to determine what kind of plants you can plant and where. For example, you wouldn’t put a rose bush in deep shade, but perhaps you might plant it in bright dappled shade — as it needs a minimum of six hours of sunlight.

2) Get out those clippers and prune

“Don’t be afraid to clip,” says Callinan.

Pruning plants will allow for more circulation and airflow and is actually very healthy and beneficial for the plant.
It will also reduce the amount of shade in your garden overall, allowing other plants to thrive.

3) Something to reflect on

If you can’t get the sun to shine directly on your garden, Callinan recommends taking an indirect approach.

“White and reflective things will bounce light,” she says going back to science basics. “Use it to your advantage in tough spots.”

By using materials like tin foil or stained glass to create light in a dim area, brightness can be added to your plants and may do the trick and sustain your garden.

4) Create shade and use it to your benefit

“Shade is not what it used to be,” says Callinan. “And because of this, some plants will tolerate less sun.”

With increased sun intensity due to ozone deterioration, sun exposure has become more hostile, and sometimes a little shade can be some much-needed respite.

Planting quick-growing shrubs and small trees like hedges or Smokebushes and Pagoda Dogwoods are a great way to protect your plants.

Inanimate objects can also help. Structures like pergolas, arbors and fences can add shade, but can also add a nice artistic flare.

Combine and twine them with perennial or annual vines and you have a tranquil, shaded spot. Plants like Silverlace, Trumpet vine or Honeysuckle will thrive in these conditions.

Plants for all types of shade:

Partial sun:
Bleeding hearts
Columbine
Snakeroot
Great Blue Lobelia
Lady’s mantle

Deep shade:
Solomon’s Seal
Foamflower
Jack-in-the-Pulpit
Archangel
Wild Ginger

Moist shade:
Ferns
Tiarella
Japanese Butterbur
Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Light shade:
Lungwort
Daylily
Barrenwort
Virginia bluebells
Japanese Anemone

Dry shade:
Golden Creeping Jenny
Sweet Woodruff
Bigroot Geranium
Deadnettle
Lady’s mantle